The Origins Of Dance History
Dance is one of the earliest forms of language -- at times a subconscious language -- an instrument of expressing what cannot be expressed in any other way. Throughout history, in all early cultures and societies, dance has been one of the foremost elements of ritual. It was a means of perceiving the gods, of invoking them, recounting their exploits, placating them, appealing to them, or communicating with them. In "high" cultures, such as ancient Egypt and Greece, dance was so important it became a profession of priest or adept as a representative of the people.
Dancing is, specifically, "the ordering of movement, gesture, rhythm... the means whereby feeling is exteriorized (and) messages conveyed." This includes activities which we may not ordinarily associate with dance today, such as the ritualized movements of the Anglo-Saxon field ceremony Aecer-Bot:
"And then turn to the east and bow humbly nine times, and say then these words: Eastwards I stand, for favours I pray... Then turn three times with the course of the sun, then stretch yourself along the ground and say the litany there."
Indeed, in its earliest form dance was probably the simplest of movements, mimicking the desired outcome or repeating gestures with intent. The work of Curt Sachs classifies tribal dances as mimetic or imageless. If the action portrays an event, in order that nature or the gods may moved to imitate the action, the dance is called mimetic, because the movement portrays an image. Mimetic dance is a form of sympathetic magic. However, mimetic dance is not the only expression of ritual purpose. A dancer's movements can be rhythmic and generalized, that is, imageless, with the power coming not from the gestures themselves, but from their repetition in context with other ritual aspects.
The theory of mimetic dance and sympathetic magic is based on the assumption that "things act on one another at a distance because they are secretly linked together by an invisible bond." Spence applies the first to ritual dance, as homeopathic magic is based on similarity and strictly mimetic in its conditions. He further identifies ritual dance as both mimetic and cooperative, meaning that the action seeks the assistance of the gods, as well as assisting the gods in their various duties.
Dance not only served to communicate, appeal, and assist the gods, but also the ancestors. An Egyptian funerary dance is recorded which, by mimetic action, gods and heroes were propitiated on behalf of the departed and Spence rightly makes the association between "fairies" and the dead, their governance of the agriculture, luck and prosperity of the community, continuing to perform their round dance in "fairy rings" for the purposes of agricultural magic.
The following I found very interesting under Historical Evidence.
A literary description of a Viking wedding dance survives in the medieval saga Bosi and Herraud, written around 1300 C.E. The dance is mentioned because of its crucial timing in the story, as well as the hero Bosi masquerading as "Sigurd" the master musician:
"King Godmund sat on the high-seat. Beside him sat the bridegroom with Hraerek in attendance on him. It isn't said how the other noblemen were placed, but this much is known, that "Sigurd" played the harp before the bride and her maidens. When the toasts were being served, "Sigurd" played so well, everyone remarked that he had no equal, but he said this was only the beginning. The king told him not to spare his efforts. When the memorial cup consecrated to Thor was carried into the hall, "Sigurd" changed the tune. Then everything loose began to move -- knives, plates and anything else which no one was holding on to -- and lots of people jumped up from their seats and danced on the floor. This went on for quite some time.
Next came the toast dedicated to all the gods. "Sigurd" changed the tune again, and this time he played so loud, the music rang through the entire palace. All the people inside jumped to their feet, except the king and the bridal couple. All the guests were shuffling about and so was everything else inside the hall. This too went on for quite some time.
The king asked whether "Sigurd" knew any more tunes. He answered that there were still a few less important ones and advised everybody to take a rest for a while. The guests sat down and carried on with their drinking. Then he played the tunes of the "Ogress", the "Dreamer" and the "Warrior", and after that it was time for Odin's toast to be drunk. Then "Sigurd" opened the harp. It was heavily inlaid with gold, and so big that a man could stand upright inside it. From inside he took a pair of white gloves, gold-embroidered, and played the "Coif-Thrower". Then all the coifs were blown off the ladies' heads, and danced above the crossbeams in the hall. All the men and women jumped to their feet, and not a thing remained still in its place.
When Odin's toast had been drunk, there was only one more left, the toast dedicated to Freyja. Then "Sigurd" started plucking the one string that lies across the other strings, and told the king to get ready for the tune called "Powerful". The king was so startled at this tune that he jumped to his feet and the bride and the bridegroom too, and nobody danced more vigorously than they did. This went on for quite some time. Now Smid took the bride by the hand, led her a lively dance, and when he got the chance, picked up the table service and bundled it into the bridal sheets."
What we have here is a rather remarkable account not only of a wedding dance, but dances and tunes in connection with toasts to the gods, and even more than that, a supernatural dance where the dancers are compelled to jump to their feet, knives and plates move about by themselves, and coifs fly from the ladies' heads and dance by themselves above the crossbeams, all seemingly normal to the participants! Whether or not these phenomena can be explained by the rhythm of the music, the vibration of stomping feet, or a gust of wind is not offered by the story teller, but it is clear that this dancing is done in a religious context and directly associated with the toasts to the gods. Additionally, Bosi is the trickster of the story, a wooer of women with his witty and humorous sexual parallels, and once offered the art of magic by his foster mother, which he refused on the basis that he "didn't want it written in his saga that he'd carried anything through by trickery instead of relying on his own manhood." His actions, however, show his success through trickery, magic and bravery.
To sum this up, Dance is a great energy that moves within each one of us. Maybe it's about turning your life around. Whether we are accessing part of the tribal ethics of a personal religion or way of life. Perhaps we are experiencing another dimension that exists only to us. Perhaps we are engulfed in the spirit liquid or not. We might even be enjoying a special moment of light, or love, or Heavenly experience that makes us want to shout or just turn yourself around, being joyous. So put your soul right in, put your soul right out, put your soul right in shake it all about, turn yourself around, isn't that what its all about!!!
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